By Larry Ray Hafley
As Paul said in his day, “the mystery of lawlessness doth already work” (2 ‘Mess. 2:7), so it is in our day. There are misguided souls who, though they may have the best of intentions, would alter the nature, spirit, power and character of the gospel. Their ideas, if followed, will lead to wholesale changes in the church and doctrine of Christ. There will be a revision of teachings on everything from morals and modesty to music and marriage. Some who are involved do not see the far reaching tentacles of their present posture and position. They are blind and oblivious to the consequences of their convictions and criticisms. For them, we feel the deepest sympathy. Against them, we shall wage a relentless, withering warfare. All “the weapons of our warfare,” every gun in the arsenal of the gospel shall be trained on them (2 Cor. 10:3-5; 1 Tim. 6:12). Our purpose, like that of the Son of God himself, is to maim and to kill, to cast down and destroy, to help and heal (Rev. 2:23). “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build and to plant” (Jer. 1:10). “Cry aloud, and spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isa. 58:1).
Let no one mistake or misunderstand our mission. “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?” (I Pet. 4:17, 18) “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (Jas. 5:19, 20).
The “Germ” Of Truth
There is often an element, a”germ” of truth, in what critics charge against the church.
Whats Wrong with the Church of Christ?
“Germ” of Truth in Complaints, but men pervert, distort truth because they love error and hate truth (John 3:19-21)
19. And this is the condemnation, that light if come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21. But he that doest truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
Examples: Luke 23:2; Acts 6:11-14; 17:7
Was it true that Jesus was a king and that he had a kingdom (John. 18:36, 37)? Was it true that Jesus was a rival of Rome, a usurper of the Emperor? Jesus’ enemies said, “We found this fellow … saying that he himself is Christ a King” (Lk. 23:2). They twisted the truth. Correctly, they said that he was “Christ a King.” Corruptly, they inferred that he was royal, regal, rival of Rome (Acts 17:7).
Why did they do this? What was their purpose? Ultimately, there is no way to “white wash” it. Men resort to such maneuvers when they love darkness rather than light. At least, that was Christ’s conclusion (Jn. 3:19-21). Men pervert and distort truth because they love error and darkness, and hate truth and light!
In coming articles in this series, we shall note some per-versions and distortions that critics make. We shall deal with them in detail. Here, though, we simply want to get to the heart of their complaints and criticisms. They say things like, “There’s not enough love shown”; “Our preaching needs to stress the love and grace of God”; “We should receive homosexuals and let them know there is hope”; “We should not exclude a person as a prospect for gospel obedience just be-cause they have been `messed up’ in a bad divorce situation”; “Hurting people need the healing power of the cross, not a `bloody nose’ produced by an argumentative sermon on the necessity of baptism’ ; “People do not care how much we know until they know how much we care”; “We need to manifest a loving, positive spirit, not a combative, negative attitude if we are going to convert our friends.”
In essence, who can disagree with the “germ” of most of the statements above? Can we ever show too much real, true, godly love? Who would say that we could? Does our preaching need to stress the love and grace of God? Absolutely! Are homosexuals and divorced people to be refused “repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18)? Certainly not! Should we lovingly care for people and seek to soothe their sorrows with the balm and blessings of the Beloved? Of course! Will warmth, kindness and friendliness help us to reach more people? Yes, a thousand times, yes!
The Hidden Agenda, the Distortion
The “good words and fair speeches” above often are used to mask a hidden agenda. When they say they want more love shown, what do they mean? They want less preaching against immodest dress and social drinking, but they do not tell you that. No, they give you the “germ” of truth; they present that which you cannot deny, i.e., we need more love shown. What do they mean when some say that preaching needs to emphasize God’s grace? They mean they want less preaching against their lifestyle, their sins. They feel the pinch of preaching that condemns their manner of life, but they dare not admit that. Instead, they say we need to hear more about grace, and who can disagree with that?
When they say that homosexuals and unscripturally married people should be included, they do not tell you what they really mean. They have a relative or a friend who is caught up in a “bad marriage,” and they want brethren to accept him. When one opposes false doctrine of divorce and remarriage, they will not oppose the truth that is taught. They are too subtle and clever for that. No, they will accuse you of “attacking” others, and they will ask if you do not agree that we should try to include those who are “struggling with demons in their lives.” They love darkness rather than light. That is the “bottom line,” but they cannot tell you that.
When they profess that a “positive” attitude is needed, what are they really saying? Some mean by this that they are “uncomfortable” with sound doctrine. They are “embarrassed” by sermons that teach the truth on music in worship and water baptism. They are “questioning our traditions” and “rethinking” their views on some of the “pat answers” that “the Church of Christ s been known for through the years.” However, they likely will not admit that to you! No rather, they will ask you if you think that we should be gentle in our “approach to people who are hurting in this old, sinful world?” Well, of course you do!
Now, what? Next, you will be enlisted in their core, their coterie, their group. Unwittingly, you will help them to carry the ball of rebellion against the elders and/or the preacher. You will not want what they want, but you can serve their purposes as you join them in calling for a “kinder, gentler” gospel of love and acceptance. You do not mean for the truth to be “gutted” and watered down, but they do! You innocently want what every true disciple wants. You want to reach the most lost souls in the most effective way possible. The men who love darkness are using the “germ” of truth to infect you with their virus of error. The germ of truth is the worm of error.
So, they will use you. Your soundness in the faith makes you an ideal pawn. Everyone knows that you stand for the truth. You will be courted and wooed by their sincere spirits and winsome ways. They will give you every assurance of their love for truth. They will insist that they “stand where you stand,” and that they are “only interested in not driving people away with a needlessly negative, hateful attitude that some of our preachers sometimes manifest.”
My friend, when you hear such things, an alarm bell should go off in your heart! “Take heed what ye hear” (Mk. 4:24). “And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mk. 13:37).
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: No 22, p. 9-11
November 18, 1993